How to Test Your Email Address

Hand your email address the exam sheet, the metaphorical one. © Alberto G.; CC BY 2.0 license

An email address is worth nothing if it is not working. But how do you find out if it is working? There is, luckily, more than one way to test an email address…

Why Test an Email Address?

There you are, equipped as you should well be, with your beautiful email address and your beautiful email server and your beautiful email program.

Are they, though, actually working as well as they should be?

The reasons to test your email address are many and diverse.

Maybe you want to know what weird, arcane or possibly revealing X-headers your email program inserts for you; maybe something between you and the recipients gobbles up all the Japanese text you've inserted; maybe you want to experience the joy of seeing something work.

Test Your Email Address

To test your email program, SMTP server and email address:

Option 1: Send Yourself Mail

The first and easiest attempt to verify that your address is usable is to send yourself mail.

In some cases this might not test what you want to test however, for example if you have re-configured your email server and want to see if it can talk to the outside world. Many email services and servers may also bypass much of the email delivery process for messages to recipients at the same server.

Option 2: Free Email

A way to see if you can communicate with people other than yourself is to pretend you are someone else. Free email services make that easily possible.

You set up an account and get an email address at some other, independent server for free.

Now, you can send a message from the account that is to be probed to the new identity you got and see if (hopefully that) it works. You can also have a look at the headers, albeit probably not too comfortably.

This works, but unless you already own such an account it may be more trouble than it is worth.

Option 3: Echo Email Processors

A solution to the email testing problem that is both elegant and practical is offered by so-called echo mailers.

A message sent to an echo mailer will be bounced—or echoed—back to whence it came. After some system information you will find your complete original email with all header lines inlined in the body, making it easy to spot possible errors or oddities.

Echo mailers you can try include

(Updated December 2015)